12 May, 2009

Tate Modern goes Pop this autumn

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

Tate Modern’s autumn show will examine how artists such as Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst have become part of celebrity culture

Tate Modern yesterday put out an appeal for identical twins to appear in their gallery. It shouldn’t be too arduous – just sit in front of a pair of Damien Hirst’s spot paintings while people look at you.

The call was made as details were announced of Tate Modern’s big autumn show, Pop Life: Art in a Material World, which will look at the legacy of Andy Warhol’s declaration that “good business is the best art”. The exhibition, three years in the planning, will look at subsequent artists at their most self-aggrandising – from Jeff Koons to Tracey Emin.

Tate Modern’s chief curator Sheena Wagstaff said they wanted to pinpoint the moment in the 1980s when “a key aspect of late Warhol became a thrilling legacy for subsequent generations of artists”. The show will explore how, after Warhol, artists have not only commented on the mass media culture of the last 30 years, but have been very much a part of it, infiltrating the cult of celebrity.

Notoriously, Jeff Koons’ relationship with his pornstar wife Cicciolina was literally laid bare by the artist with a series called Made in Heaven. It included hyper-real paintings and sculptures of the couple having sex. After its display in the early 1990s, the individual works were scattered to collectors around the world, but will be brought back together for the Tate show.

The exhibition will also examine the mythology that artists create for themselves from the very beginning of their careers. Tracey Emin’s first ever show at the White Cube gallery, for example, was called My Major Retrospective and included many of the themes – such as her bedroom and teenage diaries – that she was to develop later.

Other artists in the show include the late New York street artist Keith Haring and his Pop Shop, which he opened in 1986 to sell editioned Haring notepads, watches and stickers. The shop will be reconstructed as an interactive installation.

The show begins, however, with Warhol, the fright-wigged, pale and vacant-looking pop artist who inspired so many. “Artists took permission from Warhol to treat the persona as part of the art itself,” says Catherine Wood, one of the show’s curators. “By the 80s, Warhol was licensing his aura. People would pay for him to turn up to parties and sometimes he would send doubles to effect the same demeanour. He treated the idea of the aura almost like a perfume brand.”

There will also be works by Takashi Murakami and Cosey Fanni Tutti. Tutti is likely to stir a debate on the lengths to which artists are willing to go: the Hull-born artist spent a large chunk of the late 70s and early 80s starring in porn magazines and films before revealing it had all been performance art.

The career of Damien Hirst, one of the most successful of all self-publicising artists, will also feature heavily in the Tate Modern show. It will chart his career from the breakthrough Freeze exhibition in 1988, which introduced the YBAs to a global audience, to the convention-defying sale he organised last year at Sotheby’s.

Any twins interested in taking part in Damien Hirst’s installation at the Tate show should email twins@tate.org.

– Pop Life: Art in a Material World at Tate Modern, October 1-January 17

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